Very few experiences are as irritating as getting your peaceful and quiet environment ruined by the loud shrieking of a leaf blower. Sadly, this occurrence is all too common, particularly for those living in the suburbs. With that being said, why are leaf blowers so loud?
Most of the sound coming from a leaf blower is a combination of the engine, blades, and expelled air. The frequency of this noise escalates the problem by making the soundwaves travel very far without losing much energy. So, you can hear that annoying noise even from afar.
This level of harsh noise can have adverse effects on your physical and mental well-being, as well as your social behavior. So, we are going to examine the causes of this issue in greater detail to get a better understanding of it. We will also explain how to avoid, or at least, negate this issue so we can all happily enjoy our Sunday mornings.
Why Are Leaf Blowers Loud?
As alluded to earlier, the main culprits in making leaf blowers so loud are the engine, blades, and propeller. Now, let’s take a look at them individually and see how each of them contributes to the irritating cacophony.
Most people have identified the engine as the biggest reason for the noise. Typically, leaf blowers utilize a two-stroke or four-stroke engine. The latter was introduced more recently to reduce air pollution. However, either of these engines generates an unhealthy level of vibration and sound.
These engines may look small compared to cars’ engines but they can rotate up to 9,000 RPM. And the fact that the insulation is very poor only compounds this problem, meaning there are no added features to absorb or reduce the noise.
Then, there is the air propulsion mechanism. If you have ever stood near an industrial-sized fan, you know just how loud they can be. Well, a leaf blower makes a similar noise but comes in a smaller package. Indeed, pushing all that air at such a high velocity and through a narrow tube will produce significant noise.
The blades attached to the leaf blower can also be a problem. A single leaf blower houses multiple blades, which exact number varies from company to company. When you start your blower, the blades make an audible popping sound. Multiply this by the number of blades in the blower, and you have a cackling beast on your hand.
Together, all of these factors produce a great deal of noise but the issue goes beyond that. The frequency of a given sound determines how far that sound travels. To put it simply, sounds with a lower frequency travel a greater distance than high-frequency sounds.
Lower frequency also has a more penetrating capacity. You might think that the walls in your house are thick enough to block the onrushing sound but that is rarely the case. Even if you are in the furthest part of your home, you will still hear the blower as if it was held right next to you.
That sums up the second part of the greater problem. Leaf blowers generate noise at a low frequency, which travels very far. It means that the noise is not limited to the user and a small, surrounding area. Instead, this sound reverberates throughout the neighborhood and disrupts pretty much everybody.
How Loud Can Leaf Blowers Get?
According to an NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) study, a standard gardening leaf blower can produce noise levels of 95 dB (A) at the ear of the user. Additionally, the noise level 50 feet away from the user is around 65-80 dB (A).
Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the noise level in suburban areas does not exceed 55 dB (A). It is also the recommended level for schools and playgrounds. So, the noise coming from most leaf blowers far exceeds the standards set by the WHO, which is not a good thing by any definition.
Even at a distance of up to a few hundred feet away from the source, people can clearly hear a leaf blowers’ noise. It is particularly worrying for students or hospital patients. As already established, this sound is not muffled by walls or other structures. Therefore, it will reach these people’s ears.
Why Is a Loud Leaf Blower Bad for You?
It has been proven that extreme noise over an extended period is detrimental to one’s physical health, mental stability, and social behavior. For this reason, various organizations have proposed several rules and standards to regulate noise levels within communities.
In almost every standard for noise regulation, experts consider any noise at or above 70 dB harmful to humans. Sounds around or over 80-85 dB start causing immediate pain and discomfort, which only grows worse with more exposure.
A typical leaf blower will create sounds up to 95 dB in the close vicinity of the user. People around the area will hear the noise between 60 to 75 dB (A). All of these numbers are significantly higher than what is tolerable, and therefore, will lead to negative effects.
The WHO has analyzed the harmful effects of excess noise and labeled them as follows:
Interference with communication
Try talking to an associate near an active construction site and you will see what we are referring to. Almost all conversations are held around 60 dB by most standards for sound, and usually even below that level. If any noise reaches your ear at a higher level during the conversation, it will make it difficult to understand what the other person is saying.
So, say you are enjoying a nice chat with friends or family and your neighbor starts revving up their leaf blower. You can then forget about having a peaceful discussion until your neighbor is done with their task.
Very loud noises can cause visible discomfort to most people, unless wearing ear protection. A loud jolt of sound can even cause bleeding from the ear by damaging the inner tympanic membrane. In the long run, constant and extended exposure to loud noise can contribute to permanent hearing loss.
It is particularly a threat for the leaf blower’s user. Since they are so close to the machine, they will have to bear most of the noise. So, we highly recommend you wear proper ear protection before launching your leaf blower.
You probably know this, but still, the effects of noise pollution on sleep deserve a mention. We know how annoying it is to have your sleep ruined by outside noises, especially if you work in the morning. Elderly people or people working shifts are the primary victims of this phenomenon.
However, it can also ruin your weekends, a time where you want to relax and discharge. Sounds as low as 30 dB are enough to wake you up, so imagine the full force of a commercial-grade leaf blower. Suffice it say, you will not get any sleep without wearing a big pair of earmuffs.
Studies have found that prolonged exposure to loud noises poses a potential risk for your heart. The reports indicate a relationship between high noise pollution and ischemic heart disease, although there also are claims for cardiac hypertension. Either way, it is not good for the faint of heart to be around leaf blowers.
Adverse effects on mental health
Sleep deprivation can negatively affect one’s mental well-being. Indeed, you are more likely to be agitated, subject to outbursts of rage, and general moodiness when you lack rest. Plus, being in a noisy neighborhood will surely make you easily irritable.
Adverse effects on performance
It is hard to concentrate on your work when there is a blaring sound coming from the window. Students cannot focus on their homework, adults cannot complete their work assignments, etc. Those are just some examples of this issue.
The long-term effect of noise pollution is more arguable as the studies for this are inconclusive. However, findings suggest a relation between noise pollution with poor memory, decrease in cognitive functioning, etc. That is why schools and daycares should not be near construction sites or the highway.
It is also why you should not bring your blower out during work hours if you are near any office or education institution.
Effects on social behavior
If you consistently disturb the peace of your community with your lawn mower or leaf blower, you can easily understand why your communal relationships and status deteriorate. Your neighbors will not appreciate you waking them up at 7 in the morning or ruin their day off while you tend your garden.
And if you are on the receiving end of such treatment, you are not going to be too kind to that person either. This sort of activity often leads to bickering and arguing, which only compounds the problem instead of solving it.
Can You Silence a Leaf Blower?
Yes, it is possible to make a leaf blower quiet enough to go unnoticed. However, the roadblocks to this ambition are pretty glaring.
To start this conversation, we should take a look at the origin of this gardening tool. Surprisingly, the first leaf blowers were not made to clear your precious lawn of debris and leaves. Instead, people used them as tools to spray chemicals or pesticides on plants.
So, right from the beginning, we have a problem. The original design did not consider activities suited for lawns and gardens. Thus, manufacturers did not emphasize making it quieter. And this design carried over to the modern tool we see today. Hence, most leaf blowers have very poor insulation, if any at all.
A lack of insulation means there are no mechanisms to absorb the vibrations, and thereby, keep the sound low. Instead, all of the noise comes out of the device, uninterrupted and straight to our ears.
So now, you are probably thinking the solution is easy — make the leaf blower out of materials that reduce vibrations and absorb sound waves. You can apply that to blades and make them even more efficient.
But one of the major appeals of modern leaf blowers is their portability. You can easily carry them with your arms or wear them like backpacks. Thus, putting materials that absorb the sound will simultaneously make the machine very heavy. Therefore, you would be sacrificing one of the biggest upsides for peace. Logically, it is a sacrifice that most manufacturers are hesitant to make. People may buy their product less if it means they have to use a trolley to push their blowers.
Another proposed solution is to replace the internal combustion engine with an electric motor. Electric motors will generate significantly less noise than their IC counterparts. But again, this will increase the size, weight, and production costs. This would mean less profit per unit sold. Thus, companies are not particularly keen on changing their business strategies.
Additionally, today’s battery technology is not suited for the sustained use of a leaf blower. At least, this type of high-functioning and long-lasting battery is not easy to make on a mass level.
So, it is possible to make a leaf blower sound like a hairdryer, but because of manufacturers’ business policies and certain limitations in terms of technology, it is still not a reality.
How to Make a Leaf Blower Quieter?
Of course, noteworthy improvements have been made in this regard over the years. The current generation of leaf blowers does not produce nearly as much sound as its predecessors. But, they are still noticeably loud and can get annoying pretty quickly.
We can hope that, in the future, companies will mass-produce leaf blowers that are practically soundless. In the meantime, there are a few steps we can take to minimize the distress caused by these tools.
Be Mindful of the Community
It is something we all can do without resorting to very expensive alternatives. No one likes someone who gets up at 6 or 7 a.m. to start mowing their lawn or using their leaf blower. The noise is detrimental no matter when you use it, but using it early in the morning is particularly rude.
The same goes for using it late at night when everyone is preparing for bed or having a peaceful dinner. For this reason, there are laws within most communities that prohibit you from using heavy machinery at certain times, usually from 9 or 10 p.m. to 8 or 9 a.m. You should find out the restrictions in your area and adhere to them.
Also, you can politely ask your neighbors before you start using your tools. As they have a lawn themselves, they will understand your need to maintain yours. But, they could be in the middle of an important occasion or discussion. So, giving them a heads up helps them prepare for the inevitable sound barrage.
Furthermore, if your house is very close to schools, daycares, or some similar places, you should refrain from using your leaf blower during active hours. Otherwise, be ready for the school authority or children’s parents to start knocking on your door.
In short, find the ideal time that best suits your routine and respects your community guidelines. Also, let your neighbors know beforehand to avoid further complications.
Switch to Electric (Corded) or Battery (Cordless)
Electric or cordless leaf blowers are quieter than gas-powered ones, and companies are producing them in higher volumes.
Yes, an electric version offers limited movements because it needs to always stay connected to a power outlet, and battery-powered models cannot replicate the sheer power of gas-powered blowers.
However, you have to compare the pros with the cons. Chances are that your lawn can be covered with an electric blower or that you can work perfectly with batteries. So, unless you have a massive area to clean, you should consider replacing your current tool.
Maintain and Upgrade
The leaf blower you have now may be an old model that has collected a fair bit of rust and other damages. This will most likely contribute to the noise problem. Newer models are markedly quieter than their predecessors, so you may want to upgrade yours.
Besides, taking good care of any tool is important. Make sure that the tubes and blades are not jammed up or clogged by debris because when that happens, your blower will generate even more unpleasant noises. So, regularly clean the pipes and oil the blades. Replace any clunky parts.
Are All Leaf Blowers Noisy?
Unfortunately, even the quietest leaf blower on the market still produces an unwanted volume of sound. To date, the most silent leaf blower is the Stihl BGA 100, which operates at a noise level of 56 dB (A). Meanwhile, the second-best in the industry, the Echo PB-460LN, performs at 65 dB.
Both of these levels are higher than the standard WHO set for community guidelines, meaning even the quietest leaf blower will produce irritating levels of sound. However, the overall impact is much more subdued than that of most other models.
Quietest Leaf Blowers on the Market
Despite their damaging effects, leaf blowers are still a staple in any lawn maintenance toolkit. So, they are unavoidable in most residential areas. But, some leaf blowers are noticeably better than others at keeping the noise down.
So, if you want to keep your lawn in pristine shape without ruining your relationship with your fellow residents, pick up one of these models to get the job done.
Stihl BGA 100
Currently the quietest leaf blower on the market, the BGA 100 produces a sound that is slightly above the standard for outdoor sound levels. It is a professional-grade, battery-powered blower that offers terrific runtime and power.
This battery-powered leaf blower earns its stride by reducing noise and air pollution. It is cordless, giving you more mobility. With 145 MPH and 625 CFM, the RY 40440 promises to deliver all the power you need for cleaning up your lawn.
Echo PB 460 LN
Echo is a pioneer in the manufacturing industry of low-noise leaf blowers, and their 460LN is their quietest model so far. It is powered by a two-stroke engine that generates up to 201 MPH and 383 CFM. All of this produces around 65 dB (A) of noise.
Which Cities Have Banned Leaf Blowers?
With all the topics mentioned above, it hardly comes as a surprise that more and more cities are issuing bans on leaf blowers, particularly gas-powered ones, while other communities have issued restrictions on the usage of leaf blowers to various degrees.
Some cities are only allowing electric or battery-powered blowers, while others are restricting that field to machines that operate at or below 65 dB (A). The violation of these rules will lead to criminal charges and the offender will be subject to a fine.
Here are some of the major U.S. cities that have completely or partially banned leaf blowers:
- California – Belvedere, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Claremont, Indian Wells, Lawndale, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Malibu, Mill Valley, Newport Beach, Ojai, Palo Alto, Piedmont, Santa Barbara, Solana Beach, Tiburon, and West Hollywood
- Colorado – Aspen, Carbondale, and Westminster
- Connecticut – Greenwich and Ridgefield
- Florida – Palm Beach
- Illinois – Arlington, Evanston, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Wilmette, and Winnetka
- Massachusetts – Brookline and Cambridge
- Michigan – Blackman Township, Cassopolis, Kalamazoo, Oakland, Richland, and Roseville
- New Hampshire – Portsmouth
- New Jersey – Montclair
- New York – Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry, Great Neck Estates, Greenberg, Larchmont, New Rochelle, Russell Gardens, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Thomaston Village, Village of Tuckahoe, White Plains, and Yonkers
- North Carolina – Chapel Hill
- Oregon – Portland
- Texas – Huston
- Washington – Seattle
As you can see, people are progressively becoming more aware of this problem and are taking action to resolve it. Hopefully, every company will soon start producing more and more silent, safe leaf blowers for us to use.